The Devil's Highway

By Luis Alberto Urrea,

Book cover of The Devil's Highway: A True Story

Book description

A widely-praised piece of investigative reporting examining the journey of 26 men who in May 2001 attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona through the region known as the Devil's Highway. So harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked The Devil's Highway as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

As the title might indicate, this darkly “true story” offers a radically different reading experience from Urrea’s novel.

This book is based on extensive research and interviews with principles involved in a pathetically disastrous illegal border crossing that happened in May 2001. Of the so-called “Wellton 26” who attempted to make their way through the Sonoran Desert, fourteen died of heatstroke.

Urrea brings to life the migrants, the coyotes, and the Border Patrol officers and somehow manages not to demonize any of them, with the result that I was brought to some understanding of this complex matter.

Urrea’s description of…

The Devil’s Highway is the 2001 story of the tragedy that befell 26 men and boys from Veracruz who cross the Mexico/Arizona border led by human smugglers who get lost on a stretch of desert known as the Devil's Highway.

Urrea is known for his direct and clear reportage style of writing. As he depicts what happened to these men seeking a chance at the American Dream, Urrea does not lose sight of the broken system of immigration, the border patrol, the smugglers or the criminal enterprise of which they are part.

The actual walk and the deadly mistakes made…

In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the "Devil's Highway." Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them. The result was a national bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a "book of the year" in multiple newspapers, and a work proclaimed as a modern American classic. What resonates with many readers, including myself is the struggle that people will go through to enter the U.S., sacrificing just about everything a person has, including possibly losing one’s life their…

I’m cheating a little on this one, because The Devil’s Highway is not about the Border Patrol specifically but rather the impact that their presence has on people trying to migrate. The power of the book is the great storytelling that brings the characters to life even as the reader knows that those lives are destined to end in the dangerous deserts of the borderlands. 

From Reece's list on US Border Patrol.

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